M42 Lenses on Sony A6000 - 6 CHEAP Vintage Lenses You Can Adapt to Your Mirrorless Camera
When it comes to exploring vintage lens options for your Sony A6000, the amount of choices can be staggering and overwhelming.
It can also get very pricey if you're trying to collect highly demanded classic lenses or use expensive speed booster adapters.
But what if there was a cost effective option for vintage lenses that allowed you to get started for less than $100?
Fortunately, there is! Enter, M42 lenses (aka one of the best kept secrets of the vintage lens world).
M42 is a lens mount that was popular amongst Soviet and Eastern European cameras from about 1949 until the 1980s. It was common on old Pentacon and Praktica cameras, as well as some Pentax cameras like the Spotmatic.
The mass production of M42 lenses and lack of brand name recognition have made them very affordable and often overlooked.
M42 lenses, also known as screw mount lenses, are very affordable vintage glass that you can start using on your A6000 today. They are easy to find on sites like eBay, and many cost less than $50 per lens, with some as low as $5-20.
Now there is a big variance in quality amongst these lenses: not all M42 lenses are created equal. So it’s important to do your research.
But if you're looking to score a bargain on a great lens, then look no further than the six lenses I'm about to show you.
1) Auto Chinon 55mm f/1.7
Average Retail: $20-65
Now when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, Auto Chinon lenses are the way to go. These lenses, made by a Japanese company named Tomioka, are very solid and usually cost around $20-30.
The 55mm f/1.7 is a great starter portrait lens if you are shooting on a crop sensor camera like the A6000.
Now it isn’t the sharpest lens in the world, but you can get fairly sharp pictures when shooting between f/2.8 and f/5.6. You will get some dreamy bokeh when shooting at f/1.7.
If you’re looking for a slightly wider aperture, there is also a Chinon 55mm f/1.4 version of the lens. It typically costs around $60-150.
One thing to note - these lenses are notorious for having oily aperture blades that stick together. So be sure to look closely and make sure the lens is in working condition before you buy it.
2) Auto Chinon 35mm f/2.8
Average Retail: $10-35
If you need to score a cheap 35mm lens, the Auto Chinon 35mm f/2.8 is definitely worth a look. You can grab one for as little as $10-35.
Is it the most fantastic lens on the market? Nah, of course not. But it’s like $20, so what do you expect?
The build quality is pretty solid and the aperture / focus rings move nicely when the lens is in good condition.
As for image quality, like most vintage lenses, it’s not super sharp wide open. However, it performs pretty well at f/4.
3) Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4
Average Retail: $50-75 (usually easiest to buy them with a Pentax Spotmatic)
This is probably one of the most underrated 50mm vintage lenses. And it’s fairly cheap for a f/1.4 lens (though prices have been trending upwards thanks to bloggers and YouTubers like me spreading the good word about Takumar lenses. Sorry fam.)
Pentax made at least four different versions of this lens before they switched over to their proprietary K mount in 1975. As James Tocchio points out in his wonderfully researched post on this lens, Pentax was trying to compete with Zeiss and put a lot of effort into that.
You can get really sharp photos and great bokeh with this lens.
It’s probably because of all the Thorium. Pentax built these lenses back before it was taboo to manufacture camera gear using radioactive materials. And the Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 is apparently one of the most radioactive lenses available.
I’m not a doctor or a nuclear physicist so I dunno if owning one of these lenses is hazardous to your health. So proceed at your own risk. But not owning a Pentax 50mm may be hazardous to your photos.
This lens costs about as much separately as it does paired with a Pentax Spotmatic, so your best bet is to shop for a Spotmatic on eBay or KEH.
Here's a solid review of the Pentax 50mm lens:
4) Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
Average Retail: $40-60
I’ve got two words to say about the Helios 44-2 58mm lens: swirly bokeh.
This lens has become famous for the way it renders out of focus areas with an odd, swirly distortion. Also, its lack of sharpness gives photos a dreamy quality to them.
These lenses are hard to come by in the states, since they were manufactured and still reside in the old Soviet bloc. *Grabs aux cord and cues up The Internationale*
Your best bet is to get one on eBay, but you’ll most likely be buying from Eastern Europe or Russia (which is notorious for scammers). So do your research and read feedback on the seller to make sure they are legit.
I bought my Helios lens from an eBay seller who listed his location as New Jersey, but was actually in Russia. When the lens arrived on my doorstep, the shitty box it was shipped in was torn up and there was barely any padding inside. Super sketchy!
Luckily for me, Helios lenses are well built so there was no damage and the lens worked perfectly.
The Helios 44-2 is great if you wanna get dreamy photos. It’s not so great if you’re looking for maximal sharpness. If you want a sharper lens, check out the Helios 44-4, which is a later version of the lens. It’s a bit sharper but has less swirl to the bokeh.
So it’s kind of the best of both worlds and you can get beautiful images like this with the Helios 44-4:
If you want to dive deeper on the Helios 44-2 lens, here is a great review by my buddy Ade Torrent over at Awesome Cameras:
5) Aetna Rokunar 28mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
Average Retail: ??? Unknown, but probably worth around $20-30
Now this is an interesting lens. I picked this one up on eBay a couple years ago in a lot sale with another M42 lens.
When I was doing research for this post, I couldn't find much information on the Aetna Rokunar lens. But there are quite a number of 28mm f/2.8 macro lenses with the M42 mount, so I suspect it might be a rebrand of another lens.
Back in the day, it was a common business practice to rebrand lenses manufactured by another company and sell them in a different market. For instance, the major retail company Sears had their own line of lenses, but they were all rebranded lenses that they sold in the United States. In other words, Sears didn’t make their own lenses; they just slapped their brand name on lenses made by another company and sold them.
It’s quite possible that the Aetna Rokunar 28mm f/2.8 is a rebrand of another 28mm macro M42 lens (possibly the Sirius 28mm f/2.8 lens, which was manufactured in Korea).
And I'm also sure that if I'm wrong that someone will let me know in the comments. Because people loving telling other people why they're wrong on the Internet!
6) Pentacon 135mm f/2.8
Average Retail: $100-150
I decided to end this post with a telephoto lens.
Not because I wanted to though. I know if I didn't include at least one telephoto lens in this list that someone would write to me and be like "But Dan!!! What do you recommend for a telephoto lens?!?! You never talk about telephoto lenses!"
I’ma be straight with you: I rarely shoot with telephoto lenses. I probably haven't used anything over 85mm in the past two years. But if you're looking for a telephoto lens, I've heard good things about the Pentacon 135mm f/2.8, which was produced in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
This lens has earned the nickname: “The Bokeh Monster.” Its 15 aperture blades create very pronounced ”bokeh balls” when shooting at f/2.8. If you’re mounting this lens in your Sony A6000, the effective focal length is 202.5mm.
Now it is a bit pricier than the other lenses on this list. In my research, it looks like it's more difficult to snag a budget friendly M42 telephoto lens that doesn't take shit photos. So you’ll probably end up dropping more than $100 to snag one.
Adapting M42 Lenses to Modern Digital Cameras
Now, if you want to shoot these lenses on modern digital cameras, you will need an adapter.
I shoot with a Sony A6000 and use a Fotodiox M42 to Sony NEX adapter. A new one costs around $20 USD.
It's all manual focus, so if you want sharp images I recommend turning on focus peaking and manual focus assist. It's pretty easy to get sharp focus once you've practiced a bit.
Where to Get M42 Lenses
You can find M42 lenses at most places that sell used vintage camera gear. If you're shopping around yard sales and flea markets you can probably get a great deal.
If you like buying your gear online, I recommend KEH and eBay.
Do you shoot with M42 lenses? Let me know what your favorite lens is in the comments below.
About the Author
Dan Bullman is a portrait photographer and YouTuber based in Boston. He produces educational videos, gear reviews and other content to make you a better photographer faster. His videos have been viewed over 2 million times. His portrait work has been featured on accounts like @moodyports @followingboston and @portraitmeet.
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